The second annual conference of the European Retail Financial Forum (ERFF) focused on taking stock of the extent to which consumers’ expectations are met in terms of EU retail financial services policy. The event, which was hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), brought together predominantly representatives of the financial services industry. Two consumer organizations were present: the European Consumer Centre and ASUFIN.
Patricia Suárez, President of the Spanish Financial Users Association (Asufin), defended consumer interests on the first panel, which dealt with three key issues for consumers: daily banking; access to credit; and investments, pensions and insurance.
During the debate it was noted that reputation, security, trust and cost of financial services still suffer from the 2008 financial crisis. Suárez told the stakeholders that consumers across the EU have similar problems and need a unified approach as well as cross-border solutions. Fintech could be a means to this end, but consumers are often still bound by national rules and need a local account to make payments. A lack of financial and digital literacy also needs to be addressed by educating consumers, so they can reap the full potential of available opportunities. Suárez scolded the banks for pushing products that consumers don’t need or can’t afford: “Banks should provide their clients with easy to understand information and give them what they want”, she said.
Preventing consumer discrimination and exclusion is another key factor towards improving the situation for financial users. Suárez argued that financial firms increasingly make use of big data, profiling and targeting consumers. Financial users are generally concerned about how their data is managed and the role of big tech in this. On this issue, the Asufin President was clear: “The ‘big four’ have the power to push out European banks because they hold personal information about consumers, their habits and even financial information, that no bank or even government could hope to have”.
Watch our Youtube video in this issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QATdR3UDpA8
Position paper: 20191111_170136_0000